Delhi breathes easier, no oddeven for now
Govt files fresh plea as green court refuses exemptions; AQI down to 308
NEW DELHI: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) sent back a Delhi government petition seeking exemptions in the odd-even road rationing scheme, calling it inadequate, on a day when pollution levels in the city improved dramatically.
The average air quality index (AQI), which was “severe” for the last seven days, fell more than 150 points to 308 on Tuesday — the lowest since October 23 — primarily due to higher wind speeds at the ground level.
“The levels of particulate matter, which had shot up nearly eight times above the safe standards on Sunday, are going down,” Dipankar Saha, chief of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) air laboratory, told HT.
High-altitude winds that usually bring in pollutants from outside have calmed down, and the surface level winds that flush out local pollutants are gathering speed, the CPCB expert said.
The government’s monitoring agency SAFAR has predicted that pollution levels will improve further on Wednesday, but the Met department has warned that light rain could worsen the situation on Thursday if the moisture traps pollutants in the air.
On Tuesday, the NGT, while hearing the Delhi government’s modification petition on oddeven, pulled up the city administration for inaction that had led to an “environmental and health emergency”.
“Courts can’t hold the fingers of departments like parents do with children. You have to take responsibility, and take action to fight pollution,” a bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said.
“Don’t gift infected lungs to children. They have to wear masks to school. What constitutes a health emergency according to you?” NGT to Delhi government
The Delhi government wants vehicles driven by women and two-wheelers to be exempted from the odd-even plan — under which only odd- and even-numbered private vehicles can ply on the roads on alternate days. But the NGT last week called the scheme a “farce” and said the exemptions defeat the purpose of the anti-pollution measure.
On Tuesday, the Delhi government filed yet another review petition urging the NGT to reconsider its decision, with one addition — the odd-even plan apply to the entire National Capital Region, and not just to Delhi.
The fall in pollution levels has led to a new problem that exposes the inability of the authorities in combating Delhi’s pollution crisis.
Civic agencies, particularly the city’s municipal corporations, started rolling back measures implemented under the anti-pollution Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) without any such direction by the monitoring authority.
The South Delhi Municipal Corporation on Tuesday said it would go back to its usual parking rate of Rs 20 per hour for fourwheelers and Rs 10 per hour for two-wheelers from Wednesday night. The GRAP had called for a fourfold hike in parking fees until further notice.
Members of the Supreme Court-appointed pollution control panel, EPCA, said a hasty rollback was a contravention of the GRAP guidelines, and that the Delhi administration were once again making the mistake of taking the pollution problem lightly.
Meanwhile, politics over pollution continued with Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal asking Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh for a meeting to discuss crop burning in his state, which has been blamed for much of Delhi’s pollution woes. Kejriwal is slated to meet Haryana chief minister ML Khattar in Chandigarh over the issue on Wednesday.
Kejriwal got into two public spats with Amarinder and Khattar over the last few days about who is responsible for Delhi’s bad air, which each blaming the other for not doing enough.